Mark Garnett versus Al Pacino. Who will win?

Let’s get something straight right from the get go. I don’t have any kids.

I was at my Mum’s the other night and ended up watching “World’s Strictest Parents” on BBC. It’s still available on BBC iplayer now.

The basic premise is that difficult kids will be taken out of their “normal” environment and cast headlong into an entirely stricter parental paradigm . The BBC will film it and then entertain us by putting it on the gogglebox. Yes ladies and gentlemen, this is your TV licence fee hard at work.

So I’m watching this episode and the troublesome UK teens, 17-year-old Naomi Fisher and 16-year-old Ross Torry, were sent to live with the Garnetts. A very religious southern Baptist family from Birmingham Alabama. Now the Garnetts are pretty well off and so the teenagers turn up at this massive house with some excitement.

The excitement diminishes somewhat once inside because they suddenly discover the moral code they must adhere to while living there. They have to get rid of “contraband” that contravenes the rules immediately and voluntarily including cigarettes in her case. More of which later. Then bags are searched and rules are laid down. Somehow her fashion type magazines were contraband too.

The 16 year old lad, Ross, came out as gay a year ago. He basically did all he could to reinforce the Elton John caricature of tantrums and tiaras. He had a tantrum most of the time.

So Daddy Garnett is the one laying down the rules and regs. This is my point. My mum was loving it. These terrible kids being brought to book by the “wonderful” father and role model that is Daddy Garnett, who is also a Southern Baptist. Did I mention that earlier? Because I was left wondering if the religion thing is incidental. I think the guy’s just a control freak with confidence.

So in Alabama a teenager isn’t allowed to smoke. But Naomi is a smoker. And 17 years old. One night Naomi and Ross get to go out with the Garnett’s two teenage boys to the bowling alley. A treat without supervision. While there Ross heads to the bar area and bums a fag. Sorry. Cadges a cigarette. He then calls over Naomi and they smoke speedily but blissfully. Then the two teenage sons come in and look at them disapprovingly. The conversation was something like:

– “Please don’t tell your dad”
– “You are putting me in a difficult position, I have to tell my dad”

Cut to arriving home. Mom says “Did it all go ok?” and teenage son says “Do you want to tell her or shall I?”.

At this point I urge you, if you never have previously, to go and watch the wonderful moral guide that is the film “Scent of a Woman“. Al Pacino plays the wonderfully awful but charismatic and opinionated

Col. Frank Slade. He won an Oscar for the performance. Pay particular attention toward the end when Al Pacino tells the assembled throng that making a young man spill the beans on his mates erodes his individual moral code and, by extension, the moral fabric of society. That to fail in protecting your friends/family you are encouraging isolation and distance and so on. Watch the film.

(I love it when he tells Chris O’Donnell “Pass me the John Daniels, son”, “But sir, I can only see Jack Daniels”, “Well pass it over son. When you’ve known him as long as I have, you can call him John too”. Or something like that.)

I’m on Al’s side. And here’s why:

  1. The moral code that Garnett imposes on his wards is entirely of his own making. The producers invoke his religious side and so on but it’s all about him. He rules the roost and everyone else falls in line behind him, regardless of their own opinions. If they still have some opinions that is.
  2. Given that Garnett’s moral code is to be implemented at any cost to the kids,( backbone, loyalty other than to Daddy, forming of personal opinions and beliefs) Garnett is self centred not children centred.
  3. Garnett is clearly well funded. They didn’t go into this but he’s eloquent, convincing and charismatic. Just because he’s persuasive he’s right? Is that the message from this reality programme? That you can talk people round to your way of thinking and that’s better than letting them become more of what they are?
  4. I don’t really have to go into the religious side of it do I?

Why am I writing about it as a Skeptic? Because I don’t buy his shit. I agree that kids need guidance but why does it need to look like that? This guy came across to me as an overbearing and controlling man. I have little doubt that this spills over into other areas of his life and having religion is no excuse for manipulating a child, or teenager, to think the same way as you. That is one of my fundamental issues with religion. You are expected to adopt it when you have no mechanism to judge it. Such as when you’re a child.

I found this an interesting topic partly because it’s possibly one of those situations where I can imagine many parents sympathising with the religious zealot just because he comes across well in the eyes of those frustrated parents

I thought Naomi came across well in the sense that she appeared to have amused/bemused smile on her face the whole way through.


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